Nobel's, Linlithgow (1902-1914)
It's startling to discover that during the First and Second World Wars, explosives were manufactured less than half a mile from the centre of Linlithgow.
A factory had been established in Linlithgow by Nobel's Explosives Ltd in 1902, and named the Regent Works. It was built in the Italianate style, to a design by the Linlithgow architect W M Scott, at the east end of the High Street. The residents of Linlithgow were understandably worried at first, but were reassured that no explosives were to be made there. It began as a small wire-covering shop but was expanded for the construction of safety fuses, mining explosives and detonators. In 1913, the Town Council of Linlithgow approved an application by Nobel to allow it to manufacture explosives at Boghall, just a few hundred yards beyond its High Street site.
So, by the outbreak of the war, the factory was well placed to move rapidly into war-time production.
As soon as war was declared in 1914, Nobel’s in Linlithgow started to gear up for the war. Nobel’s was one of only 16 firms to tender for early War Office contracts to provide guns, shells, small arms and ammunitions.
On 8 September, William Muir, the manager of the Regent Factory, received a letter from Lord Kitchener. It was a 'rallying call' asking the company and its employees to put every effort into their work for the good of those fighting. As well as their work, the employees began to raise considerable sums of money for wartime good causes and this effort would continue throughout the war.
On Monday 2 October, a fire broke out at the works. The factory was busy with Government orders and the accident caused some delay. However, the damage wasn’t extensive and repairs were quickly completed.
In October 1914, Nobel's purchased property at the south end of Provost Road behind the company’s Regent factory for the building of a considerable extension to the factory. The factory was seen as an asset to the burgh of Linlithgow, providing employment for men, women and girls, and this proposed extension was to be just the first of many.
To read more about the Nobel factory in Linlithgow in the early days of the war, and particularly the fire of October 1914, read the attached documents.